Beijing ban on smoking working … mostly

BEIJING, CHINA-AUGUST 14 :A Chinese woman smokes a cigarette inside a disco in Beijing's Sanlitun night club district which are packed with foreigners in town to enjoy the Olympics, on August 14, 2008 in Beijing, China. The well known Sanlitun area has been cleaned up prior to the Olympic games and thrives with young people looking for a party.  (Photo Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA-AUGUST 14 :A Chinese woman smokes a cigarette inside a disco in Beijing’s Sanlitun night club district which are packed with foreigners in town to enjoy the Olympics, on August 14, 2008 in Beijing, China. The well known Sanlitun area has been cleaned up prior to the Olympic games and thrives with young people looking for a party. (Photo Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Here is a story from ForeignPolicy.com (first time I’ve used a story from this site) about Beijing’s (latest) two-month-old indoor smoking ban.

China is notoriously lax about enforcing any sort of environmental or public-health laws (this is why you don’t want to buy dog treats made in China), but according to this article, Beijing is serious about cracking down on smoking in bars, clubs and restaurants. It is a $32 fine for smokers and up to a $1,600 fine for businesses that allow it. After two months, the city has collected $16,000 in fines.

 

Beijing has actually attempted a smoking ban, but dropped it. And several other cities in China have had unsuccessful smoking bans. From the ForeignPolicy.com story:

The ban’s early success — one month after it began, the Beijing Association on Tobacco Control described the short-term results as “satisfactory” — is noteworthy. Environmental or health-friendly policies are often introduced to great fanfare in China, usually accompanied by amiable mantras like “Healthy City,” only to quietly fade due to lack of political will or commercial incentive.

When it comes to smoking, Chinese cities have mostlyproven willing to stub out only while international audiences are watching. What starts as erratic enforcement soon peters out, and the country light back up as soon as the world turns away. Take Guangzhou, the capital of southern Guangdong, whichexperimented with an ill-fated smoking crackdown in 2010, and has been doing so on-and-off, and without success, since 1995. Then there’s financial capital Shanghai, which made a similarly short-lived effortprior to its World Expo in 2010, themed “Better Life, Better City.” Beijing has also tried, with at least one half-hearted effort targeting large restaurants during the 2008 Olympics. That effectively ended when the foreign press went home.

The writer, based in Beijing, adds that he has personally witnessed a decrease in indoor smoking, including tobacco “fiends” standing outside a 24-hour club notorious for its “anything goes atmosphere.” The author stated that smoking was so ubiquitous in China as recently as 2009 — seeing smoking in hospital rooms, etc. — that he didn’t believe it would be possible for any smoking ban to have an effect.

Beijing may be taking steps to reduce smoking, but the city still struggles with its infamous horrendous smog. The smog may be one reason the capital has finally decided to become serious about a smoking ban, but at the same time, it is a small step in making Beijing a more healthy place.

From the article:

But what may prove more effective than the threat of a financial penalty is the growing realization that Beijing, already fending off notorious pollution, can no longer afford to carry the public-health burden of a citywide smoking habit as well.

… Smoking may eventually come to be viewed as an oddly indulgent habit in a city whose air is already persistently hostile to one’s health. Indeed, an unusual spate of recent thunderstorms, coupled with low winds, has left a spectral gloom over the city this summer, a reminder of greater problems yet to be resolved. In this clammy atmosphere, young commuters, lining up at bus stops, seem to cough, hawk, and grumble like terminal smokers. The capital may be ready to finally give up its favorite bad habit, but it has plenty of others still to kick.

 

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